Visitors to the America-Israel Cultural Foundation website see bad news and good in anticipation of this year’s gala fundraiser January 10th at Carnegie Hall. The bad news, announced in a banner: “Unfortunately, the bulk of AICF’s endowments were invested with Bernard L. Madoff Securities.” The good news, AICF is one of the few charities to underestimate its own impact, since its slogan, “Building a Better Israel through the Arts,” is far too modest. Since 1939, the AICF has handed out over 100 million dollars to Israeli artists and cultural institutions, thereby making the world a better place, not just Israel.
No single concert or event can encapsulate the AICF’s full range of scholarship support in music, art & design, dance, film, and theatre. At the January 10th event, some of the most touching performances will doubtless be by veteran performers whose scholarships date back to the 1950s, like the ardent violinist Miriam Fried and the warmheartedly engaging pianist Joseph Kalichstein.
Absent at Carnegie Hall but very much present on the world scene are some still-young past recipients like the pianist Ran Dank, whose rigorous performances of Bach are in the great tradition, and the remarkable clarinetist Moran Katz who plays with transcendent passion.
Another scholarship recipient is the multi-talented actor Itay Tiran, who combines the stage presence of a younger Ewan McGregor with a moving, Broadway-style voice. The jazz scholarship program has been especially strong, supporting the pianist Alon Yavnai, an interpreter of somber grace and eloquence and the Sonny Rollins-influenced alto sax player Uri Gurvich.
The serenely masterful guitarist Gilad Hekselman aptly comments on the AICF website: “It’s great that in a country that is constantly under threat, there is an organization so devoted to the arts. It’s rare! From a culturally developed reality — peace will come.”